[First impression] – Scream Queens season 1
I have always wanted to give this series a try after watching the iconic opening scenes of Chanel and her minions but did not manage to until now, when I have more free time. Scream Queens stays in my to-watch list because it’s a horror and black comedy series. I have never watched the black comedy genre before so obviously I was totally excited for this experience. Focusing on the sorority life, Scream Queens added its own touch to make not just one but several twists from the all too familiar theme.
The opening scene for the series takes place in the same house of Kappa Kappa Tau (KKT), but in 1995. It was in that year that a horrendous event happened, although not surprising judging by how obviously shallow the KKT sisters were portrayed. The plot then fast forwards to the present time, introducing the current president of Kappa Kappa Tau: Chanel Oberlin.
Chanel’s introduction captures the audience’s attention well. From the upbeat music, to the close up shot of her empowered eyes, Chanel right from the start is established as the most privileged kid. She has money, power, and minions who obey her every words. But even from the start, these privileges are already portrayed as a joke. And that is exactly what Scream Queens try to do with their plot: making a joke out of the seriousness of the topics it touches on. In Scream Queens, you will encounter issues regarding bullying, racism, white privilege, corruption, murders,… very lightly. The frequency it appears and reappears also adds to this increasing normalization. That, I suppose, is the essence of black comedy.
The satire emerges also through the acting of the cast: how they talk, react, and over-exaggerate their personalities. I feel like all stereotypical characters that often seen in horror movies are featured in this series but with over-the-top portrayals. Everyone seems too energetic and extreme in whatever they do. For reference, I would definitely quote Chanel Number #2’s airhead personality. However, these extreme personalities, especially when interacting with each other, become too much to digest while watching since a little too much of everything ruins the harmony and balance of the cast as a whole.
The touch of black comedy overall distort everyone to become very different from my imagination. The principal is supposed to be a righteous figure but ends up being a horny corrupted person. The rich guy loses his cool and become a total useless loser. If you hope for romance, there is; although it is rather abrupt and unsatisfying as portrayed in a comedic way. In other words, there’s always something weird and out of your expectations ( or maybe if you are a total newbie to the black comedy genre like me).
Mystery builds up as the series goes as events starts overlapping over each other but we, just like the characters in the movies, have no clues to hold on. We can’t explain why murders happen. Suspense is definitely developed from this fact. But the hyperbolic universe in Scream Queens really helps make horror less frightening. As the title says itself, the girls scream all the time. In traditional horror movies, screams heighten the audience’s own fear as the audience immerge themselves in the character’s anxiety. However, screams in Scream Queens are normalized and repeated over and over again to the point they create the opposite effect: becoming comedic instead of horrifying.
The lighting and mise-en-scène are also different from current movies/series as it takes inspiration from the 90s. So the colorful costumes of the characters, the retro color palette the series use will remind us of the past althought the setting is in the present days. It can be that this use of mise-en-scene and the emotional acting introduce a hint of melodrama for the series as well. Whatever the real intentions behind these factors that I mention, they create an interesting combination that really makes the series stand out. The cast portray their characters really well, so don’t have worries about the acting. Chanel Oberlin won’t let you down.
If black comedy is a new light to you, then you will need some time to fully digest how Scream Queens works. But watching the series is definitely a recommended experience if you want to try new genres, especially this black comedy genre.